25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading for this weekend is from the Book of Amos. This prophet, regarded as one of the Minor Prophets, was from Tekoa, a rural area of Judea. It was about 10 miles from Jerusalem. Amos was a shepherd, and obviously he knew well the religious traditions of his ancestors.
He also had a sense of events occurring beyond his own environment, even events happening in other lands.
This pastoral occupation, and keen knowledge not only of tradition but also of life far beyond his own situation, gives his book of only nine chapters a special quality.
Money dominates the wording of this reading. Indeed the passage even mentions ancient units of currency, such as the shekel. Most importantly, it is highly critical of any quest to gather great sums of money. It instead insists that a higher standard exists. Obviously, a reward greater than monetary gain is to be desired, and it is available.
For its second reading the Church presents the First Letter to Timothy. Early Christian history, including that of the Apostolic Era, includes the names of deeply committed pioneer converts to Christianity.
Timothy was one of these converts. He was so close to the Apostle Paul that Paul referred to him as “beloved son,” although of course nothing suggests that Timothy literally was the Apostle’s biological child. Son of a Greek father and a devout Jewish mother, and therefore Jewish under the laws of Judaism, Timothy became a Christian through Paul’s influence. Tradition is that Timothy was the first bishop of the Christian community in Ephesus.
In this weekend’s reading, Timothy is asked especially to pray for rulers and persons in authority. They especially are vulnerable to the temptation of yielding to greed and ambition.
St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a parable. An irresponsible manager fears the results if his employer discovers the manager’s mishandling of his duty. So he called his employer’s debtors and ordered them to reduce the amount owed. In fact, he canceled his own commission, but obviously the commission was excessive.
This arrangement would have been as unacceptable then as it would be now. The employer would have had every right to repudiate the manager’s bold discounting of the amounts owed. However, had the manager insisted on the original figures, he would have been upholding the outrageous commission. He would have lost the regard of the community and appeared to be out of control of his own business. Saving honor was more important than the money owed as debts. In other words, there is a greater good than money.
It is easy to become lost and confused in the world of ancient Jewish economics, quite unlike modern economics, but then again quite similar. For this reason it is better not to elevate the employer in the parable recounted by Luke’s Gospel to too high a level of prestige. There is little temptation to lionize the irresponsible manager.
Rather, the bottom line is that some things in life are more important than money. It is the theme of the reading from Amos. It seems a truism, however little else in contemporary life, in which materialism and profit reign supreme, could be more relevant that the caution in these readings not to stake our future, or measure success, in monetary terms.
The line between genuine security and peace of mind on the one hand, and grasping for more and more on the other, is easy to cross. It is easy to rationalize that struggling to obtain more material assets is in fact only an effort to be financially secure.
Wise and experienced, reinforced by God’s inspiration, the Church offers these Scriptures to us as warning. Remember what is important. Pursue what is important.
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